Thanks for the memories
Posted: Sun February 22, 1998 at 11:52 AM ET
And so, as we bid a fond farewell to the Nagano Olympics, here are some parting observations from the 1998 Winter Games.
- With limitless patience and countless smiles, the Japanese have been most gracious hosts. Where else would three complete strangers invite two journalists to join them for dinner and pay for most of the meal just because they were asked -- in English -- to recommend a good restaurant?
Kwan showed plenty of class and dignity after her silver-medal performance AP
- Tara Lipinski may have won the gold medal and the glory, but Michelle Kwan leaves the Nagano Games with the respect of virtually everyone who witnessed the dignity, class, and composure she displayed after taking silver in the ladies' figure skating competition. Kwan has been disarmingly honest about her disappointment and her uncertainty about whether or not she will compete in the 2002 Games. "I skated my best, but my best wasn't good enough that night," she said after the competition. "I can look back and be happy with myself. I don't have any regrets." With that healthy perspective, the 17-year-old Kwan should do just fine, regardless of what her future holds.
- Further proof that, in most cases, women are better than men: the U.S. women's hockey players won the gold medal and kept their rooms tidy at the Olympic Village. Their multimillionaire counterparts on the men's team could do neither, much to the embarrassment of hockey fans, the NHL, and the United States.
- There is always extra motivation for the home country at the Olympics. Japan stepped up for 10 medals in Nagano, including five golds. In its 15 previous Olympic appearances Japan had won a total of 19 medals, three of them gold. Perhaps that is a good omen for the U.S. in 2002.
Before winning gold, Bergoust gave journalists the grand tour of the athlete village -- from the laundromat to the video arcade AP
- Aerials gold medalist Eric Bergoust of the U.S. took us where no journalists had gone before. Three days before he started competing, Bergoust invited us on a tour of the athlete village. He took us with him to the laundromat, the barber shop and the video arcade. When we saw Bergoust after he had won his gold medal, he was as unfazed by his success as he had been when he sat in the barber's chair. "When I first started this sport, I fell every day for three years," said Bergoust, after winning his medal. "I think everyone fails and everyone succeeds. It's just a matter of degrees." For a guy who flips and flies high off the ground, Bergoust is extremely down-to-earth.
- The idea sounded good: Let's take the Jamaican bobsled team shopping in Nagano. When the Jamaicans actually agreed to do it, it sounded even better. It didn't exactly work out the way we imagined. It's hard to shop when you have to stop every two feet for a photo with a fan. Now we know how Michael Jordan must feel. But Devon Harris and Jason Morris, the two-man bobsled team from Jamaica, handled it with aplomb. "It seems to mean something to the people," said Harris of the picture-taking and autograph-signing. "I try to be as friendly as I can. It's a great vibe."
- Finally, we will remember catching up with retired speed skater Johann Olav Koss of Norway. Koss won three gold medals at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. In Nagano he worked as a television commentator for Australian TV. "When the Games started, I missed skating," admitted Koss. "After you have stopped for a while, you think every race was great. You only remember the good times."
Koss is correct. Forgive us for getting misty, but for all the long bus rides, delayed events and constantly changing weather, we leave Nagano with some pretty great memories.
Some people back home have criticized the Nagano Games as being boring. For us, the Games were a blast.
February 21: Twirlin' with Lipinski and Kwan
February 20: U.S. athletes go back to school
February 18: Part II with Picabo
February 17: A conversation with Picabo Street
February 16: Gotta be the skates
February 15: A stitch kills time
February 14: Will you be my valentine?
February 13: A spin around the village
February 12: Rockin' the halfpipe
February 11: African skiers making strides
February 10: Surf's up for wired athletes
February 9: Heart of Nagano
February 8: Be careful what you wish for...